We All Live Here: Building Bridges

Not everyone experiences life the same way.  We live in the same environment with the same expectations but different realities. The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force supports people with grounded expertise to participate in solving our community problems.  Members of our Community Voices are graduates from the Getting Ahead program.

In 2018, we completed 4 Getting Ahead sessions in Hanover, Kincardine, Owen Sound and Walkerton with a total of 222 graduates. Getting Ahead is a 15 session (3 hours/session), 8 week program designed to help people create their own path for making a stable, secure life for themselves and their family.

A Getting Ahead Program Evaluation (Wahler, 2015) found that “the program … facilitates positive changes in poverty-related knowledge, perceived stress, mental health and well-being; social support, self-efficacy, hope; and goal directed behavior and planning amongst participants.”  Read the full study at GA-Program-Evaluation-Results_21 Oct 2015. Four sessions are scheduled in 2019 in Markdale, Wiarton, Port Elgin and Owen Sound funded by Grey County and Bruce County.

In 2018, a new Building Emotional Resources course for Getting Ahead graduates was piloted. The  Pilot has been picked up to run for 12 weeks in Hanover in March 2019.

This program is for people who have lost their way at some point and want to get ‘themselves’ back.  Getting Ahead graduates use a workbook full of exercises that invite them to reflect on their life and the way they deal with problems, with losses, and with their emotions.

Taking a constructive approach, participants increase their awareness, build more resources and become stronger as they move from one exercise to the next.   Read more in Emilia O’Neill-Baker’s article “Build Emotional Resources to Own More of Yourself”.

Bridges Out of Poverty promotes an active partnership between people of different economic backgrounds – based on mutual respect – to address poverty in a systematic way. Since 2015, the Bridges Action Group has been coordinating training with community groups on the Bridges Out of Poverty concepts.  In 2018, we provided 2 trainings (39 people) and offered many awareness sessions in Grey County.

The next component of the Bridges Out of Poverty program is the formation of Circles™.  Circles™ is a supportive, intentional, reciprocal, befriending relationship comprised of a Getting Ahead graduate and their family who are moving out of poverty (Circle Leader) and 2 to 4 community-based middle class people (Allies) willing to befriend the family and support their way out of poverty.

Since 2017, the Bridges Action Group has been working on a Circles™ design.  We have been meeting with Circles Canada and organizations in Ontario implementing various models while determining various cost factors.  In 2018, the YMCA coordinated a Poverty Simulation with Circles Sarnia-Lambton and Getting Ahead graduates for professionals in Elmwood. And we hosted a Circles Information Session in Hanover in 2018.  We continue to work on a design and funding for the model in 2019.

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Rural Homeless Enumeration 2018

full length of man sitting outdoors

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In April of 2018, Bruce County and Grey County each conducted a homelessness enumeration using a Period Prevalence Count (PPC) methodology in their respective counties.

The problem of homelessness is most often associated with urban communities, however, a growing body of research over the past 15 years has shown that the problem is also prevalent in rural Canada. The size and the dynamics of the problem in these rural areas is still largely unknown, in part because of unique problems that
rural areas pose for data collection. Rural areas often have fewer services geared towards people experiencing homelessness and the services that are available often serve a large geographical region.

A recent study conducted in rural and northern Ontario found that only 32 percent of service providers in these regions are able to keep ongoing records of their at-risk and homeless populations. This problem is compounded by the fact that rural areas tend to have smaller populations spread out over relatively large geographic regions, making it more difficult to locate those who sleep rough or stay in unsafe dwellings.

The homelessness enumeration was the first of its kind to be conducted in Bruce County and Grey County – the result of a mandate set by the provincial government in 2016 with the passage of the Promoting Affordable Housing Act and the commitment to end chronic homelessness by 2025.

Beginning in 2018, all Ontario municipalities are required to conduct a homeless enumeration every two years with the goals of:

  • Improving community awareness and understanding of homelessness;
  • Helping to monitor and assess developing trends over time;
  • Providing a method through which to measure progress; and
  • Strengthening efforts to end homelessness.

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force Housing Action Group identified organizations across the two counties that work with people experiencing homelessness as hub sites where enumerators would be located to conduct surveys. Front line social service workers were provided enumeration training on the survey tool, empathy training and information on services/programs available for people experiencing homelessness.

Results

Bruce County: over the course of the enumeration week, a total of 17 individuals experiencing homelessness were counted in Bruce County. Eleven of them completed questionnaires.  Read more in the full report: 2018 Homeless Enumeration – Bruce County.

Grey County: over the course of the week 33 individuals identified as experiencing homelessness and 29 completed the survey.  Read more in the full report to council.

Next Steps

The results are large enough to demonstrate homelessness exists in Grey County and Bruce County. Although the results presented are not generalizable to both counties’ population, they are sufficient to demonstrate that homelessness is a socioeconomic problem in Bruce County and Grey County.  The results suggests avenues for further study, particularly in regards to youth and seniors’ homelessness.

These results will be used in the consultation sessions for the update to Bruce County’s Long-Term Housing Strategy and Grey County’s 10 Year Housing and Homelessness Plan.

 

Putting a spotlight on poverty

United Way of Bruce Grey and the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force wants to put a spotlight on poverty in our community.

Basic needs are increasingly out of reach for people living on low-income, and people with insufficient income face impossible choices every single day. For people living with disabilities, further barriers related to employment, social exclusion, and higher cost of living make it even more difficult to thrive without comprehensive supports.

After the 1.5% rate increase in October 2018, a single person receiving Ontario Works will still be 65% below the poverty line receiving only: $ 732/month.

On average,1 949 households per month access Ontario Works in Grey County and Bruce County in 2018.

July 2018 profiles:

Of the July case load:

  • 1148 clients, or 62% were single,
  • 595 clients, or 31%, were sole supporting parents
  • Balance were dual parent families or couples with no children.

ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) has a caseload of 6855 households in Grey Bruce. A single person on ODSP is 55% below the poverty line receiving $1 151.

Ontario’s low income cut-off puts the poverty line at $2 080 for a single person.

The lonely girl cries in the street

Any increases to Ontario Works caseloads are attributed to positive changes in regulations around income supports such as child support no longer being considered income, increase asset limits which allow people to keep more of their earned income and savings as well as the eligibility requirements for youth 16 and 17 living on their own.

Transitioning people out of poverty and to a life of sustainability requires many supports. Access to transportation, childcare that is affordable and fits the schedule of the jobs available.

We also need to ensure that the right supports are there for the right demographic of people needing supports. With 62% of recipients being singles, we need to ensure there are supports beyond those just focused on children and families.

The United Way of Bruce Grey and the Poverty Task Force look forward to working with the new Provincial government on addressing rural poverty needs.

Microsoft PowerPoint - PTF Election Graphics_4August2018

 

For more information:

Grey Bruce Online Food Map is Launched; Targets Hunger and Waste Reduction

The Food Security Action Group (FSAG) has launched a Bruce Grey Food Assets Map. The map will help to connect organizations and businesses looking to build better food security throughout the region.

Currently, the Food Assets Map includes programs and initiatives like community gardens, community meals, food banks, food education, good food boxes, meal delivery services, student nutrition programs, and other support services. Food businesses on the map include farmers’ markets, distributors, grocers, producers, processors, restaurants and cafés. The map also captures food system infrastructure assets such as dry and cold storage, commercial kitchens and transportation opportunities.

Are you part of the food system in Grey Bruce? If so, FSAG wants you on the map. Individuals and groups may submit new assets for the map using a crowd-source form hosted by Grey County.

Over the next few months, FSAG will use mapped resources to engage partners in a Grey Bruce Food Gleaning project. Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover foods that would otherwise go to waste and connecting those foods to people in need. According to a 2014 Value Chain Management Centre report, Canadians waste a staggering $31 billion in food every year. Food gleaning can play a role in reducing food waste and its impacts, producing social, environmental and economic benefits.

The map was developed in partnership with Grey County GIS Mapping Services following a survey and interviews with food security programs and services. The Food Security Action Group is a branch of the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force.

Community members are encouraged to connect with Jaden Calvert of FSAG to help populate the map or to contribute to regional food gleaning projects:  jaden.calvert@gmail.com.

For technical issues with the map, contact Grey County GIS at gisdesk@grey.ca.  Please reference Bruce, Grey, Food Asset Map.

Link to map: http://grey.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=a70b87bc334846638b8d738ab26fced9

Link to map form: http://grey.maps.arcgis.com/apps/GeoForm/index.html?appid=ed0501c109e7401eb1f0f262a51dac17